Our summer profile series is back and we’re previewing Maryland football one position group at a time.
Maryland football will continue its rebuild under head coach Mike Locksley in 2020 — if the season gets played despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
We’ve previewed the wide receivers, tight ends, running backs and quarterbacks, and now we’re looking at linebackers. Lila took a look at inside leader Ayinde “Ace” Eley yesterday, and today we look at outside leader Shaq Smith.
Shaq Smith, No. 5
Year: Graduate Senior
High School: St Frances/IMG Academy
Hometown: Baltimore, Md.
2019 stats: 24 tackles (14/10), 3.5 TFL, 4 PD, 1 sack
Career stats (incl. 2 seasons at Clemson): 52 tackles (27/25), 6 TFL, 1 INT, 4 PD, 2 sacks
Smith is a local product who quickly became a national star in high school. Ahead of his final high school season, Smith transferred to IMG Academy where he got to play more on the national stage while his recruitment flourished.
Maryland recruited Smith heavily during the 2015 season, but the firing of Randy Edsall and hiring of DJ Durkin over then-interim head coach Mike Locksley really hit the 2016 class hard. Smith, along with targets Dwayne Haskins and Keandre Jones, ended up backing off the Maryland movement and going to blue blood programs instead.
At Clemson, Smith redshirted in 2016 and played in 28 games across his freshman and sophomore seasons. In 2017, the Tigers won the ACC Championship and reached the College Football Playoff, while in 2018 they took things a step further by winning the ACC Championship and reaching the National Championship game.
Despite having a chance to earn a starting role at Clemson in 2019, Smith returned to his home state to play for the Terps.
He is set to flourish in the JACK role
A big change for Smith came with his transfer, as the new Maryland staff was shifting to a 3-4 defense.
After playing an inside role in the 4-3 at Clemson, defensive coordinator Jon Hoke moved Smith into the JACK role in College Park to use his blend of rush and pass defending skills effectively.
In 2019, Smith tallied 24 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss while adding a sack and four pass deflections in the passing game. At Clemson Smith showed a knack for blitzing, but in his transition to JACK he was able to show more of his abilities in pass defense and develop a higher level of comfort in both aspects.
With a season in the new system completed, there should be room for Smith to branch out and use his abilities fully. There will be more freedom for him to apply pressure when chances arise and more trust for him to cover the flats and match-up in the passing game.
This will serve as his last chance to impress NFL scouts
Coming in to college as the No. 81 player in his class, the path for Smith has always included shooting for the next level.
With early tape proving that Smith could hold up on the highest level of college football despite being an underclassman, the one thing left to prove is if he can show a wider range of increased production.
Smith over doubled his career numbers as a focal point in the Maryland defense at the JACK linebacker position despite playing in a new system. He put up solid numbers across the board, but NFL scouts will be looking for consistency and potentially an increase in 2020.
Former Maryland linebacker Jermaine Carter Jr. has earned his way into a fight for a starting spot with the Carolina Panthers and made his way into the league based on sheer production as a Terp.
Though Carter played a more interior role, Smith will be faced with the similar task of proving he can rack up equal or better stats in the pass and run game in his second year as a full-time starter.
To scouts, Smith probably won’t face any repercussions for a lack of numbers during his first two years at Clemson, given he was a back-up, but he’ll have to show he can handle being a full-time starter against stiff competition.